(Bruce Pascoe-Photo by Christine McFarlane)
Bio: Bruce Pascoe is a leading Australian Aboriginal Writer who was one of the Faculty at the Banff Centre for the Arts for the Aboriginal Emerging Writer Program 2011. He was born in Richmond, Victoria in 1947. He graduated as a secondary teacher but has also worked as a farmer, fisherman and barman. He now runs Pascoe Publishing with his wife, Lyn. Until recently, they also published the successful quarterly, Australian Short Stories. He has two children and lives at Cape Otway in Victoria where is a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative. His works include, Earth, 2000, Foxies in a Firehose: A Piece of Doggeral from Warragul, 2006 (a children's book) Bloke, 2009, D Night Animals (stories), 1986, Nightjar, stories of the Australian night, 2000 and three other novels, Fox, 1988, Ruby Eyed Coucal, 1996 and Shark, 1999, winner of the Fellowship of Australian Writers' Literature Award for 1999.
By Bruce Pascoe
My trip to Canada to work with First Nations Writers at the Banff Centre got off to a rough start when I visited the Vancouver Anthropological museum. I wandered about the museum and my heart sank lower and lower. Every exhibit brought me closer to my knees and eventually I had to sit down. The poles and canoes and weavings and carvings were so superb and the ruthless dismissal of the culture by Europeans depressed me to such a degree that I felt I would faint. As I explained to my Banff students later I’m not the fainting type.
How could you look at that art, the depth of the spiritual embrace of the world and not believe that those people were rich and sophisticated? The arrogance of Europe’s superiority complex and the Un-Christian ferocity of their insistence that thou shall have no other god before me is truly staggering. What brought the European to such scientific prominence but such poverty stricken spirituality?
I travelled the land from Banfield to Ucluelet to Vancouver to Banff and everywhere I was aware of the great spirits within the land. I spoke to First Nations people and sensed the tenacity of my own Australian Aboriginal people but I was also aware of the unbridgeable grief we share.
The sounds, the mountains, the springs, the caves, the rivers, they all whispered with their beauty and it was so obvious that any visitor could imagine themselves enjoying living amongst such beauty and such spiritually and artistically advanced people. But why did it not occur to those visitors to ask permission?
The study of the European mind that allowed the dismissal of all other values and skills needs to be analysed. That mindset has caused grief, incredible grief in any land they visited. It is not just the Western European mind because some East Asian nations were colonists too but we have to understand what drove them, what gave them such self-assurance because it is possible they’ve lead the world down a cul-de-sac of unsustainable violence and waste such that we may not survive the experiment.
First Nations people must not hold their grief against their stomach and rock in hopelessness we must stick to the virtues of our cultures and argue that the world cannot continue with the experiment of unbridled imperial capitalism. This is not an argument for Capitalism vs Communism it is about human behavior and the potential for us to survive our worst impulses. Young First Nations people must return to the values of their people and argue for a return to a respectful relationship with the earth.
Sometimes visiting a strange land can focus your understanding of the ways of the world. My visit to Canada did that for me and I thank you for the opportunity. Solidarity, Bruce Pascoe